Summer is here, which means thousands of children are at home getting into everything. School is just a quickly fading memory, and learning (while occurring constantly) is the last thing on their minds. This article is (primarily) for parents who may not have been fortunate enough to find some type of summer program or camp to keep their lovelies engaged over the next couple of months but who want to do something soon.
There are two main schools of thought regarding summer for children: work even if they’re not in school or give them a break from learning. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of both. I never require my son to work like he’s in school, but I do provide mandatory daily enrichment activities throughout the summer months. I do it for several reasons, but here are my biggest ones:
- He needs to stay in learning/engagement mode to exercise his brain and continue to grow.
- He needs to combat the six-week regression children experience during the summer.
- He needs to explore the concepts he loves without feeling obligated to teachers.
- He needs to strengthen academic skills in a low-stress environment.
There’s no doubt that you’ll find hundreds of articles listing ideas for summer bridge, but sometimes it’s the implementation that worries parents. How do I pick what’s appropriate? How much time should I require? How often should my child work on these activities? I know that even as a teacher, I ask myself these questions at the start of every summer, and the answers vary every time.
“How do I pick what’s appropriate?” — My best advice is to decide what your purpose is first. Are you trying to support weaker skills based on your child’s last report card? Are you trying to expose your child to new concepts to “test the waters” or cultivate interest? Are you trying to further strengthen your child’s strongest skills? Decide that first, and keep in mind that you don’t have to do all of those in two months. It’s okay to narrow your purpose. I promise.
“How much time should I require?” — I don’t require a set amount of time for activities because I want my son to control the depth of his learning. Some might be finished in 15 minutes, but others could take him 45 minutes, especially if he’s really interested in the activity or concept. My primary concern is the level of effort and critical thought he engages in while he’s completing them. Instead of time, I use quantities. For example, I might require him to complete three pages (each) for Language Arts and math followed by reading two chapters of his current book. Once he’s finished with that, he’s free for the day. You can make a loose schedule for your children if that helps them manage, or you can remind them of what must be done before bedtime and allow them to decide on when it gets done. You’ve got options.
“How often should my child work on these activities?” — That depends on the purpose you chose. For interventions, I suggest daily. For enrichment, you can go with alternating days. Again, my personal preference is daily no matter what because I’m teaching consistency and routines as an added point. My lovely child needs a routine that doesn’t change, so every day is our ideal schedule.
Suggestions for Summer Bridge Work
If your child(ren)’s school does not send home summer activities, fret not. There are countless options for you, and they don’t all cost money either. I will say though that free worksheets and activities tend to cost you more planning time because you’ll have to search, decide, collect, print, etc., which is why I generally go with low-cost, pre-made books like Summer Bridge Activities Books from Amazon.com, Target, Walmart, Borders, Barnes and Noble, or some other distributor.
Published summer workbooks can cost you anywhere from $3 to $25, but it’s worth it in the long run because they’re hassle-free and often written by expert teachers and other educators. You can choose to focus on a single subject area or purchase a large text with several sections.
This year I will be using Newsela, IXL, and a handwriting book with my son. There are links to both of these websites on the Useful Websites page. If you’d like to create your own activities using a variety of resources, check out my article, “Collecting Enrichment Ideas”. You can use the links there to design summer work for your child.
Just remember that these things are a work in progress. They don’t have to be perfect immediately. The goal is to provide children with an opportunity to keep all of the knowledge they’ve acquired over the school year. The summer learning regression phenomenon is well-documented in recent literature, and together we can do our best to support our children’s learning year-round.